Tips to Design Your Own Clothing Patterns

Posted by on Feb 07, 2022

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There's more than one way to learn the techniques of clothing pattern design. Some sewers take apart their own clothes and measure each section to understand how it all fits together. Other budding designers educate themselves by trying and failing numerous times. Whatever path you decide to follow, these pattern-making tips will likely help.

1. Set up a workstation with the right tools.

Pattern-making requires many more tools and accessories than you probably realize. You may not need all of these to get started, but most will be used over years of clothes-making.

Do not mix paper scissors and fabric scissor. Paper scissors get dull when they're used to cut fabric. When it comes to fabric scissors, it pays to invest in high quality ones. A poor cut on fabric can impact your seems and overall fit. 

Making notches in your pattern help line up the sections. A notcher is a paper cutter used to makes a small line cut in the paper pattern. After the notches are made in the pattern, you’ll make a similar cut in the fabric with scissors. Nippers / Thread Clippers For cutting stray threads. 

Seam Ripper 
To open up seams when a stitch or seam goes wrong — sooner or later an accident will happen. 

This sharp, pointed instrument is used for punching holes in the fabric to help note where darts are located. 

You pins should work well with the fabric you’re using. Delicate fabrics like lace require sharp, fine pins. Long pins are great for quilting. Tougher fabrics like denim require thicker pins. Binder clips can work well instead of pins for leather. Check out Zoe Hong's video on sewing tools for specific recommendations. 

Pin cushion
A magnetic one can be great if you ned to pick up dropped pins (which will probably happen sooner or later). 

Mechanical pencil 
If you don't want to worry about sharpening your pencil all the time, consider using a mechanical one. When you’re working on your dress form, however, you may want to opt for a fabric marker instead. 
Twill tape 
Perfect for marking and pinning sections of the form. 

Rulers and measuring tape 
Both are musts for making accurate patterns. Long, clear rulers can help to see what you’re doing on the fabric. Hip curve rulers will be needed for measuring parts of the pattern that are shaped to the body. 
Sewing Machine 
Before you buy a sewing machine, make sure the one you get can work with the fabrics you intend to use. Be smart and read a few sewing machine reviews.

2. Do some research

Analyze designs similar to what you want to make. Look for construction tips as well as what makes the pattern distinctive. Many pattern-makers start by finding a piece of their clothing they like and cutting it apart with a seam ripper to create forms from the sections. Pay attention to details like sleeve depth and how much ease is used in composition. A good book like "Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich can teach jumpstart your clothes-making wisdom. 

3. Learn to draft by hand before using software
Paper and pen can be a lot easier to understand at first than pattern-making software. Some sewists even design their patterns on paper and then scan them in to digitize them. 

4. Draft for the fabric
Certain fabrics can stretch and droop as they get worn. Figuring out how to design a pattern for the fabric is an important part of clothes-making knowhow. You may want to start with a pattern that’s slightly small if you know the fabric will stretch and grow. Of course, stretch fabrics will likely change and grow.

5. Don’t worry if your pattern doesn’t look like one you find elsewhere. 
Your pattern is made for your own taste and body size.

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